Tuesday (August 13): “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”
Scripture: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Meditation: Are you surprised to see the disciples discussing with Jesus who is the greatest? Don’t we do the same thing? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be inbred in us. Who doesn’t cherish the ambition to be “somebody” whom others admire rather than a “nobody”? Even the Psalms speak about the glory God has destined for us. You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5).
Whose glory do you seek? Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God. What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. It is customary, even today, to seat the guest of honor at the right side of the host.
The lowly of heart empty themselves of pride Who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart – who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant and child before God. The simple of heart know that they belong to God – he is their father, teacher, and provider – the one who shows them the way of peace, joy, and life everlasting. They are content to recognize their total dependence on God who is the source of all goodness and every good gift.
Jesus restores us to the people he has made holy What does Jesus’ story about a lost sheep tell us about God and his kingdom? Shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God (Luke 15:7). Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?
“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and simplicity of heart that I may find perfect joy in you. May your light shine through me that others may see your truth and love and find hope and peace in you.”
14. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 24. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. 72. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. 103. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!. 111. Your testimonies are my heritage forever; yes, they are the joy of my heart. 131. With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: What it means to become a child a God, by Epiphanius the Latin (late 5th century)
“Here the Lord not only repressed the apostles’ thoughts but also checked the ambition of believers throughout the whole world, so that he might be great who wanted to be least. For with this purpose Jesus used the example of the child, that what he had been through his nature, we through our holy living might become – innocent, like children innocent of every sin. For a child does not know how to hold resentment or to grow angry. He does not know how to repay evil for evil. He does not think base thoughts. He does not commit adultery or arson or murder. He is utterly ignorant of theft or brawling or all the things that will draw him to sin. He does not know how to disparage, how to blaspheme, how to hurt, how to lie. He believes what he hears. What he is ordered he does not analyze. He loves his parents with full affection. Therefore what children are in their simplicity, let us become through a holy way of life, as children innocent of sin. And quite rightly, one who has become a child innocent of sin in this way is greater in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives such a person will receive Christ.” (excerpt from INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 27)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.